Created on Tuesday, 17 September 2013 Written by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CLEVELAND (AP) — The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission has signed off on $930 million for 10 projects in the turnpike's first round of funding for highway and bridge work outside of its corridor.
The financing change is meant to speed along road projects that might have been delayed for years because of funding problems. Turnpike toll increases over the next decade will be used to pay off $1 billion in bonds issued by the commission to help with projects outside of the toll road's route across northern Ohio.
The agreements finalized Monday include $340 million for a new eastbound bridge on Interstate 90 in Cleveland. The bid for that project came in lower, at $273 million. The Ohio Department of Transportation is expected to make recommendations for spending the $67 million difference.
"No trips start or end on the turnpike, so our financial support of these projects is a benefit to the entire transportation system and turnpike customers as well," Rick Hodges, turnpike executive director, said in a statement.
Other approved projects involve a link between Interstate 490 in Cleveland and the city's University Circle neighborhood, Interstate 80 near Youngstown, Interstate 271 near Akron, interstates 75 and 475 and U.S. 20 in the Toledo area, the Interstate 75 corridor south of Toledo, Ohio 57 near Elyria and U.S. 250 in the Sandusky area.
Two projects — a railroad crossing improvement in the Toledo area and bus route infrastructure in the Canton area — were rejected.
Under legislation, the turnpike has taken on $1 billion of what ultimately will be $1.5 billion in debt backed by toll revenue. The funding marks the first time that the turnpike will finance projects well off its 241-mile, east-west corridor.
To pay the tab, tolls will climb 2.7 percent a year for 10 years, beginning Jan. 1, for turnpike users with the exception of commuters using E-ZPass and traveling fewer than 30 miles between exits.